Hamlet, as one of the most eminent plays in history, possesses an intricate conflict between the protagonists and antagonists. Nonetheless, there is confusion about who the protagonists and the antagonists are, and how heroes should be defined in this well-known play. Heroes, for a long time in my life, have been defined as people who are able to do supernatural, super-human work in favor of the public. My favorite hero was, and still is, the amazing superhero Spiderman. As a relatable college student, Peter Parker gains a superpower with a bite of a spider.
With his superpower, he saves the city, attains the love of his lifelong crush, and gains the favor of the public. As a young boy, I looked up to Spiderman, thinking that he is the best man that could ever exist on earth. Spiderman, or Peter Parker, once said “Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option”, and to Mary Jane, said “Then you know why we can’t be together.
Spider Man will always have enemies. I can’t let you take that risk. I will always be Spider Man. You and I can never be… ” (Spiderman).
These lines made me thirst for more Spiderman and have imprinted his magnificent image in my brain as the greatest hero. This hero created 8 years ago by Marvel comics created an image in my head that heroes are simply people who have gained the favor of the public. As the epitome of a hero, Spiderman, with his brawny, agile senses, seems to fight his troubles from the point he realizes his power. Hamlet, however, totally changed my concept of a hero. Assuming that Hamlet is a hero, he is simply portrayed as a normal man born of royalty, without any superpowers.
Although he is the prince, as the protagonist, he has less public favor than the king, the antagonist. Moreover, not only did he not take care of whom he loved, but he led her to a state of madness, which eventually lead to her death. This made me wonder if the protagonist in this book was truly a hero or not. Looking into one of the most recognized dictionaries, I found these definitions of a hero: 1. “A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 2. A person who, in the pinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child. 3. The principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
4. Classical Mythology. a. A being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity. b. (In the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability. c. (In later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod. 5. Hero sandwich. 6. The bread or roll used in making a hero sandwich. ” (Dictionary. om) Considering the fact that only a few people would consider Hamlet as a godlike being, a sandwich, or a piece of bread, looking at the first three definitions would be the best choice. Since the play itself is called Hamlet, I think that it is wise to call Hamlet “the principal male character” in the play, according to the third definition. The first two definitions of Hamlet is the main dispute of whether or not Hamlet was truly a hero. The two main deeds that define a hero in this definition are braveness and nobility. This, however, is not enough to be the definition of a hero.
Adolf Hitler was brave and noble, according to what the Nazis thought. Nonetheless, when we look back in history, his image is far from a hero, and is even characterized as an anti-social racist that led a huge genocide, killing millions of Jews. Therefore, I believe that a hero should be not only brave and noble, but also willing to dedicate his life for the greater good, especially the good of others. Especially in Hamlet, the main thing that convinces me that Hamlet was a hero was the fact that he was willing to risk his life for the revenge of his father in order to do himself justice.
Although he did cause harm to people during the process of his vengeance, none of them were intentional. Polonius was killed because Hamlet thought he was the king, Ophelia died because she drowned after she lost her mind, and Laertes died because Hamlet thought Laertes was trying to kill him. The king, back then, had the ultimate power to do anything, and any sign of rebellion meant death; even the prince would be sentenced to death the fact that Hamlet risked being executed for his father’s revenge shows that he was a hero.
There were countless war heroes, but the reason that they are still remembered today is because they were willing to dedicate their lives for their country, the citizens, and the soldiers. A Korean admiral, Yi Soon Shin, is still recognized as the greatest admiral in naval warfare history. During a tumultuous time of Japanese invasion, Yi was able to defeat the Japanese 26 times out of 27. Recognized for his love towards his country and his soldiers, he is well-known today as a war hero. During a cold, blistering night, the soldiers were freezing in the cold, building and fixing ships.
Hearing them complain, General Yi let them rest while he himself went out in the cold to fix the ships. Soon, the soldiers followed suit; after this incident, the soldiers followed General Yi better than anyone. Like this, General Yi is remembered to be a hero who served his country and his men rather than himself. II. What I Learned Heroism, in my opinion, is generally characterized by two characteristics: braveness and nobility. People consider braveness a part of a hero since heroes do things that commoners are afraid of doing.
Going to wars, starting a rebellion, leading an army, and plotting a scam are all things that people fear. Nobility is also a huge part, since people expect heroes to be doing good actions. This definition, however, raises a controversy on whether or not their actions were noble. In the Nazi’s eyes, Hitler was noble, but to the Jews and the rest of the world, it was not. I do believe that people are using the word too freely. This definition is subjective, and the definition of a hero can always be open to debate. People can be viewed differently depending on the culture, social customs, and political aspects of the group of people.
I gained a new perspective that I figured out by myself. I realized that not only did these figures need to be brave and noble, but also saw that they need to be working for people other than themselves. Adolf Hitler once wrote in his book, Mein Kampf, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord,” (Hitler). To my understanding of Hitler, he first started to hate the Jews when as a young man, his lover ran away with a Jewish man.
Also, he was first planning to attend a famous art school. With only him and a Jewish man left, the college picked the Jewish man. After World War I, Hitler started to blame the Jews for the loss, which became some of the anti-Semitism in Germany. Hitler, in this case, is trying to apply his own hatred towards Jewish people in politics. Although he might be considered to be brave or noble by some people, I would have to say that he was not a hero, but merely a selfish leader. The fact I found that was unusual was that in novels in earlier times, all heroes had to be 100% pure of sin.
Since Hamlet was not, obviously, there were even debates back then that argues whether or not Hamlet was a hero. The fact that he was an imperfect hero, to me, seems like the author’s intention, since an imperfect hero would seem more sympathetic to the readers than a perfect one. Seeing a man struggle, like soap operas, are more amusing than a perfect man defeating everything he sees. Before this, I simply thought that heroes were simply brawny, masculine, muscular men who had pretty girls and rescued people in danger.
Now, however, I believe that heroes are simply courageous, noble men who are willing to give up with own lives in place of another’s. III. Is Hamlet a Hero? Again, according to the third definition from Dictionary. com, Hamlet is obviously the hero of the play. In this eminent play, Hamlet faces his father’s death, his mother’s immediate remarriage to his uncle, and his uncle’s murder of his father. Hamlet, immediately, seems like a hero in the reader’s minds. As mentioned above, it is the bravery and the nobility that proves that Hamlet is truly a hero in this play.
Despite his weaknesses, I still believe that Hamlet has proved himself to be a competent hero in this book. Firstly, Hamlet is not afraid to follow the ghost in act I, scene iv. Hamlet clearly sees the ghost right in front of him, but he disregards the fact that he might get killed. He later says that it might be a demon in disguise. Even when he was thinking that it was the devil, his undying love and interest towards his father leads him to disregard when Horatio and the soldiers tried to stop him and follow the ghost when the ghost calls him.
Moreover, Hamlet shows his bravery when he accepts the ghost’s mission. In the Elizabethan times, the king was supposed to be the one with complete authority. Trying to go against him meant that they were justified to be executed. Even when Hamlet knew this, he agreed to take revenge on his uncle for what he did to his father. This may seem obvious, but this shows what I have talked about earlier. Hamlet is giving up his life for his father’s revenge and for his father to rest in peace, which demonstrates selflessness and love towards his father.
Hamlet’s bravery is shown when he not only agrees to do what he says not only to kill Claudius, but to kill corruption as well. When Hamlet killed Polonius, they saw Hamlet as a man who murdered an innocent man for the revenge of his father. Nevertheless, Hamlet calls Polonius a “wretched, rash, intruding fool,” (III. iv. 33). This shows that Hamlet viewed Polonius as a man who has been corrupting the government, intruding in important affairs. Also, after Hamlet ordered to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he says that they “are not near [his] conscience,” (V. ii. 58). Hamlet here was trying to get rid of the corrupted men.
Polonius was always feeding the king with the words he wanted to hear, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were willing to obey what the king and queen wanted them to do even though Hamlet was their friend. Hamlet’s murder displays great courage because it was clearly wrong to commit murder, but he stuck to his belief system to eradicate the corruption in the government. Hamlet also displays nobility in several parts of the play. First of all, when he first talks to the ghost and finds out for himself, he says, “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (II. ii. 59). Unlike Laertes, who barged in the castle and tried to kill the king, Hamlet takes precautions and makes sure that his uncle really did kill his father. The noble sense in Hamlet made Hamlet patient and wait for him to be 100% sure of the murder. Moreover, when we see his famous soliloquies, mockeries towards some people, and his insanity, we can see that he never does it in public. When Hamlet was alone, he tells Polonius that he is reading “words, words, words”, and yells to Ophelia “get thee to a nunnery” (III. i. 133). His “To be or not to be” soliloquy is also done in private.
He doesn’t want to let others know that he wants to commit suicide and end his life. Also, using ethos to see if Hamlet was guilty of killing Polonius, Hamlet had an unstable mental state, while Claudius was extremely lucid, and Claudius knew what he was doing. Considering this, Hamlet could be viewed as mentally unstable to make wise decisions by himself. When people are mentally unstable, they can’t make the correct decisions and cannot be blamed of any crime. Laertes, knowing that Hamlet has been mentally unhinged, did not reconsider his revenge.
Therefore, I believe that since Hamlet was mentally irrational, he should not be blamed of as much crime as Laertes. Lastly, the intention justifies Hamlet’s action. Hamlet wasn’t trying to kill Claudius, but was trying to kill the king and finish the mission that his father has given him. Nonetheless, Claudius’ intention of killing his brother, Hamlet’s father, was deliberately to take his place, steal his throne, and take away the love of his wife. These instances of bravery and nobility shown convinces me that Hamlet was a truly a sympathetic, relatable hero in the play.
IV. Final thoughts With Hamlet’s courage and nobility illustrated throughout the book, we can clearly see that Hamlet is a hero. Often readers find the character Hamlet a sympathetic character and thus finds Hamlet a more relatable and memorable character. As a young man whose father died and his mother remarried, it provokes the sympathy of those who had the same experience. Since he was a prince studying abroad, nothing in his life seemed to go wrong, but as soon as his father dies, he finds out that his mother remarried his uncle, and that his uncle killed his father.
Now, the only noble thing for him to do is to kill his uncle. Here, he makes everything that happens very lively and lucid, invoking the pathos of the readers. During the research, the most valuable thing I learned from this paper was how to use citation. Even though we covered it last year, it was important for not only me, but for everyone in our class to cover it again since it is going to be something that needs to be used in college all the time. At first before I started my research, I thought about who my childhood hero was: Spiderman.
I started to think what qualities Spiderman had and what made me think that he was a hero. I started to expand on what qualities he had and what Hamlet did not, and it eventually led to some ideas. I looked up the definition of “hero” on dictionary. com, which gave me an idea of what a hero should be defined as. Later I skimmed through Hamlet, recapturing when Hamlet displayed braveness and nobility and when he looked like a hero.
1. “Hero | Define Hero at Dictionary. com. ” Dictionary. com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary. com. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/hero;. 2. Hitler, Adolf. “Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna. ” 2001. Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. 64. Print. 3. Spider-Man. Dir. Sam Raimi. Perf. Toby Maguire. Marvel, 2002. Film. 4. “Why Hamlet Is A Hero. ” Slashdoc. Jgomer3, 23 Oct. 2002. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. ;http://www. google. com. hk/url? sa=t;source=web;cd=1;ved=0CBgQFjAA;url=http://www. slashdoc. com/documents/51452;ei=5dv8TPalCdCrrAfh2oC9CA;usg=AFQjCNGbi2KnMIMouuV7JF2-Ny7adxU_OQ;. 5. Bolt, Sydney. William Shakespeare, Hamlet. London, England: Penguin, 1990. Print.
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